Triathlon is one of the fastest growing mainstream sports in the world and year after year there are people who are bitten by the Ironman Triathlon bug. Making the right equipment choices can be confusing and one of the biggest issues is figuring out the best bike for beginner Ironman triathletes.
When the Ironman first evolved in the late 1970’s the choice was not quite so difficult as there was not all that much to chose from.
There was no such thing as a “triathlon bike.”
Beginner triathlete or pro, the early Ironman took a road bike into battle.
Now however there are many different bikes to choose from.
If you want, you can spend just over $13,000 for a stunning 2013 Giant Trinity Advanced.
Of course this is not recommended for the beginner triathlete. It would be sort of like handing a teenager the keys for a Ferrari two days after he gets his driver’s license.
LEARN BASIC BIKE HANDLING SKILLS
If you are new to biking out on the open highway or biking in general it really makes sense to get yourself an inexpensive road bike and learn the basic bike handling skills.
For starters, a road bike is much more forgiving than a high-end triathlon bike.
You will find it much easier to corner, to climb, and descend hills and with the standard “drop” handle-bars there are many choices for hand positioning.
As a rule, your average road bike is not designed for straight ahead time trial speed, but triathlon bikes are lighter and usually configured lower to allow for better aerodynamic positioning.
The Giant in the image is a beautiful bike, but most definitely a bike for the experienced cyclist.
WORK YOUR WAY UP TO A TRIATHLON BIKE
I am writing this for those new to triathlon and new to cycling. Of coure there are very experienced road cyclists who decide to take on the Ironman and they can ride pretty much what they can afford.
However for the new triathlete and cyclist it would make sense to progress like this…………
Start out with a sound used road bike when you begin your triathlon career.
Once you begin to feel comfortable on the bike you might want to upgrade it by putting clipless pedals and aerobars on it.
The most important thing to remember is that regardless of what bike you ride, make sure that it “fits” you properly. Most reputable bike shops will provide this service.
For instance, if you put aero-bars on your road bike, the seat, handle-bars, or stem might have to be adjusted to allow for riding in the aero position.
You have to always keep in mind that you have to run after you ride no matter what the distance of your triathlon and the better your bike fits, the more efficient you are and the less strain you put on your body.
The reason I suggest a used road-bike is to allow yourself time to decide if you want to make a career out of triathlon or not and also to save you some money. If money is not that big an issue, you might opt for a new road-bike.
There are many people who just want to cross the Ironman finish line any way they can just once and then call it a career. You simply don’t need an expensive road bike or triathlon bike to accomplish this.
If however you do your first Ironman on your trusty road bike and decide you love the sport it would make more sense at this point to look for a triathlon bike that fits your budget.
LESSONS FROM THE EARLY DAYS OF IRONMAN
In 1984 some 8000 people applied for entry into Ironman Hawaii. 1300 were given entry into the race, about 1000 started, and 903 finished.
I’m proud to say I was one of the 903.
In the pre-race booklet they mailed out several months before the race it was suggested that in training for the upcoming Ironman you should be swimming around 7-8 miles a week, biking around 300 miles a week, and running 60 miles a week.
I learned how to swim specifically for the race and had never completed the 2.4 mile distance in training. As a matter of fact I had never swam in the open water until race morning.
I had never been on a road bike until I decided I wanted to become an Ironman and the furthest I biked in training was around 50 miles(once). I was more of a runner and had done a few marathons.
I had a three hundred dollar(heavy)road bike. Aero-bars and clipless pedals had not yet been invented and were about 18-months away.
It was stifling hot that year in Kona out on the Queen K. Highway and the winds up the hill to the bike turn-around in Hawi were just as brutal back then as they are today.
I left much of the outcome of the race that day in the hands of the Iron Gods because I certainly lacked the proper preparation to take on what was at the time, the most challenging endurance race in the world.
The main thing I had going for me was my desire to become an Ironman and to cross that finish line any way I could no matter how long it took me(it took just over 14 hours).
My point is…….it has nothing to do with how expensive or aerodynamic your bike is in the big scheme of things. If we could do it back then, you certainly can do it now.
A well-tuned and cared for road bike that is configured to fit you properly will perform just beautifully in your first(or second or third) Ironman Triathlon and the final outcome of your Ironman journey will really be decided by the size of your heart and the strength of your convictions.